If there's anything more frustrating than hundreds of hours of editing and marketing, it's trying to explain to non-writers why you need to do such things in the first place.
For the person who asks if "You're still working on that little book project of yours?" take a look at the 9 myths non-writers believe.
1. Anyone can write a book
I often hear the phrase, "Everyone has a good book in them."
Maybe. But everyone does not have a good editor in them. Writing takes a great deal more of effort than just slapping words on a page. You have to execute an eloquence of pacing, 3-D characterization, showing instead of telling, realistic dialogue, and do it all in such a way that that first page will pull those jaded agents and editors out of their stupor.
(Yes, I am one of those agents).
2. You can write a book once you have free time
Nothing can irk a writer more than someone well-meaning who smiles and says, "Oh, I'd like to write a book someday, too. Maybe when I retire and have free time."
Writing doesn't make time for you. You make time for it. Every day.
3. People get books published fast
I blame Hollywood.
In quite a few movies, after a main character has an adventure, they publish a book right after about said adventure.
Lies. Even if a person had an incredible platform with millions of followers, and happened to have a literary agent, they could possibly see a book in print two or three years after that adventure.
Even if they hired a ghostwriter (which, most of them probably would have to, considering they haven't even picked up a pen until after that adventure), it takes years.
4. People get books traditionally published all the time
Although I was happy to be included in a local magazine, I had to pull quite a few teeth to get my name in there. I called, left voicemails, emailed them. Finally, I received a voicemail from the main editor:
"We received your information, and we just expanded our page count. So we can include a little story like yours. Isn't that just great?"
Let's break down what information I told her:
1. I'm a 22-year-old literary agent (it's rare for someone this young to be an agent) with a track record of 20+ contracts in my first year.
2. I'm a college student (just graduated) who got a book traditionally published. Average ages of traditional debut authors range from 35-39.
3. I'm a local author. This was for a local magazine.
4. I have almost 400 bylines, some in major national publications.
It didn't feel like a little story because to get your book traditionally published, you have to fit in a very, very small percentage of books submitted to agents, editors, publishers, etc. I believe it's now sitting at less than 1 percent. Probably a percentage within that 1 percent, to be honest.
But to this editor, and many others I've encountered, they feel as though this seems like average news.
5. When authors get published, libraries will beg them to come talk
For Blaze, a traditionally published book, let's talk about my process for trying to get speaking engagements during launch month.
I called, emailed, visited in person (multiple times) the following:
- 20-30 local libraries
- 20-30 local bookstores
- 20-30 local schools
- 30-50 local churches
- 10-20 local magazines, newspapers
- 20-30 radio shows, podcasts
- 40-60 reviewers, bloggers, misc.
- 50-60 endorsers
Let's tally that up: 300 or so specific emails/calls/in-person visits with specific people.
Let's talk about how many actually got back with a positive answer, after a LOT of pulling teeth.
- 3 local libraries (one saying MAYBE they would take a donation of a single book for their collection temporarily since it had some nice reviews)
- 3 local bookstores
- 3 local schools
- 0 local churches
- 2 local magazines (no newspapers)
- 5 podcasts
- 20 bloggers
- 10 endorsers
A total of: 43 (14%)
6. Writers can just be writers once sales pick up
I mean, if we're talking copy writing, freelance writing, and ghostwriting, yes.
If we just mean writing books and nothing else, not really.
Only a spare few authors can just live off of writing books, and they do so by spending most of their time marketing what they've written. Their full-time job really is marketing.
Even famous authors I know work another job (literary agents, book coaches, editors, etc.).
7. If you have a literary agent, a publisher is bound to pick that book right up
Mmm, no. It still takes years. Yes, we can expedite that process and open doors unagented authors usually can't, but it takes time. Not every book we represent will get a contract.
Most do, but even editors get really picky when it comes to agented submissions.
8. Writers are lazy/lucky
I can't tell you how many times I've gotten, "Well it must be nice to sit around and create worlds all day."
Or someone will pat me on the should and say, "How lucky you are to do what you enjoy while the rest of us work jobs we don't."
If you've ever met a professional writer, you'll know they're anything but lazy. They have to fight and claw for every single byline, email and knock on doors until their fingers hurt, and force themselves to do things they hate like:
- Public speaking
- Pitching to jaded agents and editors at conferences
- Getting hundreds (thousands) of rejections
- Receiving angry reviews on Amazon and Goodreads that showed the reader didn't understand the books
- Oh yeah, getting more rejection
- Building platform
Writing only takes a small portion of our time. Yes, we love it. But it's still a job.
9. Writers only wait until the Muse strikes
Umm, yeah, no. We have deadlines.
Maybe in our earlier days when we got started did we wait for inspiration, but now we chase after it with clubs.
Didn't see your least favorite myth in here? Go ahead and drop one in the comments!